We will all be in difficult situations where we need to make a health care decision for ourselves or a loved one such as:
Should we have surgery or not?
Get this test?
Have this procedure done?
Take this drug?
Almost always when faced with a decision, you will have some time to consider your choices. Except in emergencies, you should take the time to consider your options.
As more health care research is done, we are learning that there are pros and cons to almost every decision we face. For example, being in the hospital can expose you to infections or other medical errors. Having too many X-rays over your lifetime may cause harm. The results of a procedure may be clinically perfect but leave you feeling terrible. And we've always known that certain drugs may not agree with us and have side effects.
There are resources that can help with a health care decision. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) sponsors a site called “Questions are the Answer” that includes a range of things to think about before a doctor's appointment, during an appointment and after an appointment. Questions such as:
What is this test for?
How many times have you done this procedure?
Why do I need this treatment?
Are there any alternatives?
It also includes videos where patients talk about their experiences and other Tips and Tools. http://www.ahrq.gov/questions/
Another resource is a non-profit organization called the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation (http://informedmedicaldecisions.org/) . The Foundation works in the area of “medical shared decision making”. Shared decision making is a collaborative effort between you and your doctor (or other health professional) to make health care treatment decisions together. It takes into account the best scientific evidence available, as well as your values and preferences. The Foundation has “Decision Aids” in a variety of areas where there are choices about what to do. For example, their decision aid on chronic low back pain talks about what causes low back pain, what you can do to address it and other information.
Other decision aides are available on breast cancer, diabetes, heart failure, hip and knee arthritis, prostate cancer and weight loss surgery. You can request free access to a decision aid at this site:
Other online consumer-oriented information about health care conditions and diseases is available on a previous Annapolis Patch blog post: My Favorite Health Websites - http://annapolis.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-my-favorite-health-websites